Our Work

We believe providing high-quality early care and education requires more than beautiful, safe environments rich with possibility.
High-quality care and education rely heavily on the professional who is essential to the child, family, and community they care for.
Therefore, the preparation, well-being, language, culture, wages, and benefits of that professional must be considered as valuable and integral to quality as the environment and curriculum themselves.

Our goal is to be the central hub connecting data reflecting the realities and needs of the Early Care & Education and Out-of-School-time Workforce to policymakers, investors, researchers, and change agents working to support them.

Kimberlee Belcher-Badal , Executive Director, NWRA

Our Programs

Annual Convening & Professional Development

For over a decade the NWRA has convened Registry Directors and vested public members at our annual conference. In 2020 we began offering virutal and in-person options to help make access to information an option for all members our community, regardless of their ability to travel. In 2022 we will launch our first Leadership Symposium, designed to support the leadership capacity, long-term planning, and strategic growth of state registries.

Emergency Broadcast Service

Using technology and relationships, the NWRA facilitates a vibrant network for bi-directional information exchange. We work to support peer-to-peer learning, mentor opportunities, and push critical updates to and from the field (via registry infrastructure that directly touches providers).

Unified Voice

The NWRA serves as the national representative for registries and central access point for partners to access state registries nationwide. We nurture national relationships and partnerships that strengthen, support and recognize the important work registries do. Some of our national representation includes The Commission on Professional Excellence, Child Trends, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at Berkely, Yale University, Council for Professional Recognition, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Technical Assistance

Through the support of a peer-to-peer network, mentoring from developed states, and convening, the NWRA works to provide states with tools, resources, standards, and guidance that strengthens their reach, reporting, workforce support and services.

What we do:

As the central organizing platform, facilitator, and technical assistance hub for registries, we maintain standards for quality, alignment, and growth in professional development systems that serve the Early Childhood Workforce. 

For over 20 years, early learning professional registries have evolved with little to no federal guidance or national blueprint for what they were to or could accomplish. They were unique solutions to each state’s individualized workforce needs and professional development system; they benefited from few if any investments guiding their growth and development. In response, registries themselves pulled together a grassroots movement to stand up a national organization that would help set standards for alignment, data quality, and best practices. Today, registries have grown to provide over 20 different functions across the varied landscape of professional development. This voluntary, member-driven organization has grown from less than a dozen states in 2009 to four dozen states in just one decade. Today, the NWRA serves as the national representative and acts as a cultural broker helping a multitude of stakeholders get what they need from our ever-evolving Professional Development System.

As a non-profit membership organization, we are powered by volunteers, membership fees, and fundraising through our annual conference. To help meet stakeholder needs, our platform provides registries with guidance, networking opportunities, information and resources, updates, and just-in-time opportunities or nudges with calls to action. We facilitate the registry self-study process and peer reviews that allow states to qualify to contribute data to the growing national workforce data set.  We work to amplify collective learning, elevate voices from the field, and illuminate data from the workforce to inform critical planning, budgets, and initiatives designed to support them. We also absorb feedback and guidance from the field to guide registry growth, user access, and navigation to become a more equitable system where all members of our collective workforce feel they belong and are represented.

A sample of the roles and functions we provide follow:

  • Member Support & Technical Assistance
    Convene & Facilitate
    Consult & Guide
    Connect Networks
    Promote Quality Standards
    Set Accountability Measures
    Drive Continuous Improvement
    Manage & Maintain Partnerships
    Maintain Information Hub
    Provide Leadership Development
  • Workforce Data Access & Quality
    Improve Data Quality
    Publish Workforce Data Reports
    Connect data to data consumers/research
    Strengthen Public Access to workforce data
    Quality Data Recognition (PER)
    Provide Supporting Infrastructure/Design
  • Strengthen Equity Accountability
    Guide Personal, Operational, and DataEquity
    Advocate for Racial& Income Equity
    Serve as a unifying voice
    Act as an external lever to states for stakeholder populations
  • Inform Research & Policy
    Inform decision and policy with field data
    Access Point for National Partnerships
    Pool qualifying workforce data from all states
  • GuideWorkforce Engagement & Professional DevelopmentTraining Organization Recognition(TOR)Facilitate Partner Agreements with RegistriesSupport Alignment, Reciprocity, Portability

What we see as possible

Walt Disney once said, “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.” In our part of the world, at the intersection of workforce support and workforce data, our unrestrained belief is that by weaving the early learning system together it can learn more about itself from itself, to improve itself. In our vision of what is possible we see:

A workforce professional development system that is inclusive of all the roles in early learning care and education, further recognizing the inherent wisdom that is born from experience and highlighting the hard-earned training and education necessary to be a prepared professional.

An Emergency Broadcast System that can reach all people who care for children with critical information in timely ways, including resources to support their role and efforts.

A future where disaggregated data using race, role, or Beale codes does not predict quality, access to support, or compensation.

A live national workforce dataset:

  • Informed by all states and territories
  • With public access points to analyze, elevate, and apply
  • That allows for segregation of data using equity indicators
  • Includes both Qualitative and Quantitative elements
  • Is responsive to what the field needs to know
  • Creates an annual workforce census report

Integrated Data Infrastructure & Design:

  • Promoting de-identified data sharing across the system
  • Making data access possible to cross-community stakeholders
  • Improving data cleaning, so roll-ups are light and accurate
  • Embedding cycles for continuous improvement in data integrity

A truly dynamic, bi-directional information network elevating voices from the field where Place-based learning and research are pulled forward from field experiences that are aggregated and analyzed to inform policy, theory, and preparation.

Registries have the capacity to serve as the central hub to the spokes in our field.

In Meg Wheatley’s own words, we serve to create a healthier system, by connecting it to more of itself.

“Living systems contain their own solutions. When they are suffering in any way-from divisive relationships, from lack of information, from declining performance-the solution is always to bring the system together so that it can learn more about itself from itself. Somewhere in the system, there are people who have already figured out how to resolve this problem. They are already practicing what others think is impossible. Or they possess information which, if known more widely, would help many others. Or as a particular group that has been negatively labeled or stereotyped, they are far more capable than anyone knows.

To make a system healthier, we need simply to connect it to more of itself. This means meeting together with those we have excluded or avoided, those we never dreamed were part of our system of shared interest. Most often, people deep inside a school building don’t realize how many others-parents, community employers, public officials feel connected to them. When those who have been excluded to the periphery get to meet with those inside the system, it is always a wonderful surprise to everyone to see how much they share in common and how many of them want the same things.”

-Meg Wheatley, Living Systems, 1999

Our Theory of Change

We believe high-quality care and education require more than beautiful environments filled with interesting activities because people are at the core of the delivery system for exceptional early learning experiences. People who care for children, the early learning workforce, are the focus of our efforts. At the NWRA, we strive for a day when all children can access high-impact early learning opportunities to grow optimally. In order to do this, we must first reach all members of the early learning workforce with the preparation, compensation, and representation that contributes to ideal learning.

To accomplish this vision, we work to strengthen the Early Childhood (EC) Professional Development System’s vehicle for delivery, professional development registries. EC professional registries have grown to reach nearly one million members of the field in 2020. They provide over two dozen functions related to employment, workforce preparation/qualifications, licensing, and support. Moreover, they are the central data collection repository with verified information on the workforce. As a by-product of workforce support, registries are uniquely situated to arm policymakers, advocates, researchers, and funders with data that strengthens decision making, equity awareness, accountability measures, and helps prioritize initiatives that are responsive to the demonstrated needs of the workforce.

Our promise is to:

  • help all members of the workforce receive critical information, recognized preparation, and timely updates
  • strengthen workforce engagement, support, equity, and recognition efforts
  • ensure all children can access prepared, adequately compensated professionals
  • improve data quality to support equitable representation, saturation, and reporting
  • create access points and data connections to information collected on and with the workforce

Who benefits from our work?

  1. Early Learning & OST Professionals and all people who navigate professional development systems in an attempt to provide direct care to children
  2. Professional Development Systems as we guide alignment, standards, and best practices
  3. Workforce Registries, for whom we are the central organizing hub of information exchange, recognition in quality efforts, and advocates for continuous improvement
  4. National Partners, as we are the central-most access point to and from the registries and the workforce they represent.
  5.  Data Consumers, such as policymakers, researchers, and early childhood advocates or change agents who rely on current data and information to guide their work, budgets, and decisions points.
  6. The public, Children & Families, as we collectively strengthen the early learning workforce, we indirectly and unilaterally increase access to and quality in care and education.

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